Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Chores" Rhymes With "Bores"

When you think about it, much of our non-work time is taken up with various chores: cooking, cleaning, gardening, shopping, doing laundry and the like. Chores rhymes with bores. For many of us, boring is an accurate description of our attitude toward taking care of the minutia of daily life.

As a teenager, I had two chores that were exclusively mine to do: taking out the trash and mowing the lawn. Taking out the trash only took a few minutes each day, but I would invariably forget to do this until my mother reminded me. My response to her reminders was, “I’ll do it in a minute.” Often, many minutes would pass with the trash still sitting there and I would need multiple reminders. When I got into my later teen years, I realized that I had a mental block to doing this simple chore. As I look back on my procrastination, I think part of it was a rebellion against authority and part was being easily distracted from doing something I didn’t want to do in the first place.

My attitude toward doing chores changed when I lived on my own for the last two years of seminary. When you live alone, all the daily chores fall on you. There is nobody else to blame if they’re not done. When the dishes weren’t washed, the kitchen got messy. When the trash wasn’t taken out, it would eventually stink. When the bathroom wasn’t cleaned at least weekly, it would become gross. I came to see chores as one of life’s necessities and developed a tolerance of them.

What changed my attitude further was having children. I was woefully unprepared for the amount of work a parent must do for their children. I had never changed a diaper in my life, but now did so several times a day. I had never fed a baby, but now I was preparing bottles, feeding and burping babies. There was so much to do, it was overwhelming at first. With twins, the amount of work was doubled!

Doing the many extra chores that children necessitated helped me connect these tasks with the love I had for them. This made doing chores, if not enjoyable, at least meaningful. Purpose and passion are keys to discovering the soulful dimension of work. This is so very true of the vocation of parenting.

The concept of meaningful chores is relevant even if you don’t have children or live alone. Connecting chores with how they make life better for a life partner or with how they make life better for yourself is a way of seeing how they are an expression of love. Even if chores are unlovable, they can be concrete demonstrations of love.

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